Mary Irons ... former Strafford Elementary teacher

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BARRINGTON - Mary Debra McQueeney Irons died on May 10, 2024, a sunny day of birdsong leading into northern lights, after two years of illness with pancreatic cancer. A natural educator and storyteller, her special sparkle, magical sense of humor, and astute observations enriched the lives of her family, friends, and community.

Born on Sept. 4, 1958, in Manchester, Mary developed an early enchantment with learning at Saint Edmund's, an urban parochial school where all children were taught by nuns, in French, regardless of their mastery of that language. Perhaps this early experience with intellectual challenge led to Mary's special commitment to the emotional and imaginative lives of schoolchildren.

Graduating from Exeter High School in 1976, she went on to study theater at Mount Holyoke College, ultimately earning an M.Ed. from UNH in 2001. Her lifelong interest in theater--including acting, directing, costume design, and puppetry--fostered Mary's devotion to youth theater in her professional life, working with colleagues to produce and direct many plays starring children. These productions centered the inner world of each child. Mary brought this mission to honor children's experience to her career as an educator, working at Strafford Elementary School with first-graders and Kindergarteners from 2001 until her retirement in 2023. In the classroom, her love of storytelling transcended the strictures of academic policy to empower all children, offering them the opportunity to find their own unique voices.

The natural world was a profound source of wonder for Mary (who was a skilled skier and amateur naturalist), and she brought this focus to her work on the development of outdoor curricula at Strafford School and with regional educators' groups. A voracious reader, Mary also served as children's librarian at Blaisdell Memorial Library in Nottingham for many years. Mary's powerfully creative intellect touched countless people in her community, and will reverberate, for those who were lucky enough to have been students in her classroom; kids in her library reading group; or on stage with her theatrical troupes, in lives that are richer for having had their imaginations and curiosity uplifted.

A generous family member, Mary was a devoted wife to her husband, Henry, for 46 years, and an energizing mother to her children, Hilary, Asa, and Lydia. Her friend group, The Frogs (as well as her other friends), was a guiding light to her for the past few years and throughout her illness. And Mary brought all of her beloved grandchildren the magical gift of nurturing a love of narrative and nature. It's worth noting that Mary was also incredibly beautiful.

She is survived by her husband, Henry Irons; her father, Owen McQueeney; her children, Hilary Irons (partner Carl Davulis), Asa Irons (wife Ariane Thompson), and Lydia Irons (husband Jon Sivel); her grandchildren, Tessa Irons, Lephia & Sonja Irons, and Wren & Reed Owen Sivel-Irons; her aunt, Jocelyn Soderberg; her brother, Michael McQueeney; The Frogs; and many more relatives, friends, and colleagues. She was predeceased by her mother, Suzanne McQueeney, and granddaughter Willow Sivel-Irons.

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